The Red Bag Packing Event

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The Red Chair Project thrives on community involvement.

One of the cool aspects of seeing this project grow is the excitement from others who want to get involved. Showing up in the community can look different to each person, and we wanted to explore this idea of creating an event that gave a variety of ways to get involved. We all have the ability to give, and it is not limited to money or items!

21st Century Bank

21st Century Bank

At the beginning of October we hosted our first Red Bag packing event. Our end goal was to pack 150 red bags, and send those bags out with the people who attended the event. The intention behind this was to create a ripple effect beyond our own Northeast community, and help others have the tools and encouragement to connect with people who are asking for help.

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On October 5th, we invited people come into our Steller Connect space and pack red bags to hand out to people in their own community. Leading up to the event, we shared a variety of ways to get involved, even if you weren’t able to show up!

  • Want to donate financially? We have a Gofundme!

  • Want to choose specific items to donate? We have an Amazon Wishlist!

  • Want to make it personal? Drop off notes, handmade goods, etc. to Steller Hair!

  • Want to get hands on? Show up to the event, hang out, and pack bags!

  • Want to connect? Keep the red bags in your car, and use them to show kindness, support and value to the people you drive by!

How do you authentically show up?


This event was a huge success - over 200 red bags were packed! The amount of support this project received from people who sent in donations was truly overwhelming. Our backroom was piled high with homemade hats, mittens, hand warmers, toiletries, socks, snacks, and other essentials. Going in to the day we knew we had two goals; to interact with the wonderful people who came to pack bags, and to encourage them to leave the space with bags to spread the red (aka kindness, respect, value, connection, etc).

The day started out with a dozen bagels courtesy of St Paul Bagelry, and the ever-so-generous 21st Century Bank, and a few dozen donuts made by Heights Bakery. The night before, we spent hours organizing the hundreds of donated items! We had a variety of stations, to help the volunteers have access to all the goods. We had tables full of snacks/beverages, warm weather gear, toiletries, kid’s items, and a note writing station. Volunteers came and packed the bags with whatever they seemed fit! It was also important for us to have this event be exciting to kid’s and young adults, and hopefully encouraging an awareness and ability to show up for others in their school and neighborhood community.

We love how many people showed up and came out to our event. The weather may have been rainy but the tone in the room was far from gloomy. We loved being able to connect with people who were giving their time, energy and kindness to show up for others.


Would you like to attend our next community event?

Join our mailing list for updates!

Would you like to get involved by donating to The Red Chair Project ventures?

We are excited to announce that we now have 501(c)(3) status through fiscal sponsorship by Propel Nonprofits! Click here to make a tax deductible donation.

We also have a Gofundme! Click here to check it out!







Tribes Barbers // The Red Chair Project

 
Henry and Soliman // Tribes Barber Studios

Henry and Soliman // Tribes Barber Studios

 

A couple months back we had the opportunity to branch out of the Northeast Minneapolis neighborhood and team up with the talented barbers of Tribes Barber Studios.

We’ve said this before, and will say it again: The Red Chair Project is about building relationships, just as much as it is about giving haircuts.

When Henry Tribes, owner of Tribes Barber Studios, reached out about joining forces, we were ecstatic. Not only did this cool barber find value in what we were hoping to do, but he wanted to get hand’s-on. Up until this point, we have offered haircuts in our immediate community. Why? Because it gives us the opportunity to continue connecting, and getting to know our neighbors in a meaningful way.

We asked Henry if it would be cool for us to spend time in Spring Lake Park for this venture. We love the idea of barbers/hairstylists taking this simple concept and making it their own, and meeting people who they are likely to come in contact with again.

We showed up on a Sunday morning with our Red Chairs (yes, we fit TWO red chairs in the Nissan… we still aren’t quite sure how…) at Tribes Barber Shop, and met up with Henry and Soliman. These two barbers were taking time out of their day off to go out and see if anyone in the Fridley community could benefit from a free haircut.

After driving around a bit, we ended up parking our cars in the Walmart parking lot and set up our makeshift traveling red chairs. This was the first time we set up two red chairs and collaborated with other creative stylists/barbers!

As the morning progressed, more heads were turning our way. After giving quite a few haircuts, and meeting great people in the Fridley community, we were feeling the awesome impact this project can have. At one point, our parking lot salon was so busy that we started doing haircuts on the nearby picnic bench.

We seriously lucked out with the people we had the opportunity to interact with: from a pregnant mom who was grateful for a service she didn’t have the resources to book for herself, to a man who was having a rough time and welcomed a bottle of water and a sweet fade, courtesy of Soliman!

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We loved having the opportunity to collab with our friends at Tribes Barber Studios. Their generosity and heart gave us the push we needed to find more ways to include other stylists/barbers in our Minnesota (and beyond!) communities!

Stay tuned about a pretty cool Red-Chair-First on October 20th!

written by: Emily Lall // Katie Steller






FashionABLE // Steller Kindness Project

 

We love getting to partner with our friends in the community, so when long-time inspiration Jordan Buckellew reached out with an opportunity for us, we were ecstatic. Not only is Jordan a talented photographer, she is an outspoken advocate for people who experience disabilities. FashionABLE kicked off Minnesota Fashion Week and showcased models of ALL abilities! (check out the write up done by Minnesota Monthly to learn more!)

Not only did it create a space for inclusivity in the fashion scene, the event benefited Best Buddies MN which is a nonprofit supporting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 


Best Buddies Mission

Best Buddies International is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).


The Steller Kindness Project was proud to be a sponsor for the event, but we also had the honor of hosting the models in our Steller Connect space! Our Steller Hair Company team had so much fun helping the models get runway-ready with personalized hairstyles that fit their outfits, as well as a makeup application to highlight their already beautiful features. Each model brought spunk and life to the space! Being able to host these incredible people in Steller Connect is the reason we keep that space so versatile and available. We are committed to continue educating ourselves on how to create a salon experience that feels welcoming, accessible and inclusive to all!

It was amazing to have the opportunity to talk with the models before the show, we shared a lot of laughs and took a ton of photographs. Some of the models were familiar with runway and knew their stuff while other models were new to the fashion show scene - either way they all killed it at the show. While attending the show we got to see the models walk the catwalk while hearing a small piece about them. We loved being able to assist in helping the models look and feel beautiful.

The invaluable act of advocating for Inclusivity, and celebrating humans for the people they are, can only result with creating good for all.



 

Taleesha // The Red Chair Project

When people ask us about the “structure” of The Red Chair Project, the quick response is

“oh…if only we were that organized”.

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Starting this project didn't come with a plan, it came with a hope. Our hope was (and still is) that we could help even one person feel less alone. Our simple intention has allowed this project to grow organically, and focus on the person in front of us, instead of a calculated formula.  


A few weeks ago, we received an email from one of our Northeast neighbors.  On her way to her job at 21st Century Bank, Cheryl had driven by us giving haircuts on Washington Ave.  This was before appearing on Boyd Huppert’s Land of 10,000 Stories, so when she searched the web to figure out what was happening, there was nothing to find.  

Once our story hit the news, Cheryl sent this email:

“Hi Katie!

I saw you out on the corner on Washington with your red chair before the story hit the internet. I think what you are doing is great!

The reason I am contacting you is that we (the bank) recently did a sandwich project here at the bank and handed out 150 sandwiches to the homeless in downtown.

I work downtown but live in NE Minneapolis.

We have quite a few bags of deli meat leftover and wanted to know if you were agreeable to us making the sandwiches and then delivering them to you to hand out to the folks you are giving haircuts to.

If you are going to be out and about tomorrow or early next week, please let me know and maybe we can coordinate a drop off to you.

Thank you so much for all you do!”

This shout out is not sponsored, but a genuine gratefulness for what 21st Century Bank gives to their community!

This shout out is not sponsored, but a genuine gratefulness for what 21st Century Bank gives to their community!

After talking further with Cheryl, and her coworker Mandy, we were blown away by how involved they were in the community!  21st Century Bank wasn't only donating money to help support their neighbors, they were also showing up in person to connect and show value to people.

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Giving haircuts is the way we show up, handing out sandwiches was the way 21st Century Bank was showing up, so we decided to join forces for the day!  

Our day started out driving around Northeast connecting with people experiencing homelessness, and offering them lunch as well as a Red Bag filled with gifts and other items. During our unplanned route, we ended up in the North Loop, which is when we saw Taleesha, a familiar face that we had interacted with on multiple occasions. Each time we have talked to Taleesha she had politely declined a haircut (always with a “maybe next time!”).

This time was different.

Thankfully we got a red light, and promptly rolled down our windows and chatted with Taleesha about her day while handing out lunch and a red bag. Katie then asked, “Would you like a haircut?” to which Taleesha replied, “Yes!”. We quickly parked the car and carried the red chair across Washington Ave during the afternoon lunch rush. 

Little did we know that 21st Century Bank was located across the street (promise this was not planned!), and that a few of their team actually knew Taleesha, and connected with her often.  This whole experience felt serendipitous.

Taleesha’s last salon visit was six years ago, and we were honored to be the ones to break that haircut hiatus.

Taleesha is the oldest of her family and grew up taking care of her younger siblings. She has a 21 year old son and wants to give her children the best she possibly can. We have a few intentional questions we ask everyone who chooses to spend a few moments with us during this project, one of them being “People drive by you every day, what is one thing you wish they knew about you?”.  Upon asking her about what she wants people to know about her she told us that she is signing because she needs to be, and that it is not a hobby. She wants people to understand her experiences, and that things were not easy for her. Taleesha is an incredibly strong woman who is valued and not invisible. She told us, “I feel like a mannequin”: which is something that The Red Chair Project wants to change, we want people to feel seen and valued. Taleesha has experienced so much loss and non-ideal situations yet she still manages to find a way to give to others, “If I can receive, I can give.” 

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Taleesha’s hair transformation brought back her confidence, and self proclaimed determination - she was beaming. “I’m starting over” she said as she looked at her new hair with the handheld mirror. Being able to talk to Taleesha truly made our day. She is so loved in the community and has many people in her life that care for her. It was great when people would roll down their windows to tell her she looked great, we even had someone get out of their car to learn more about what we are doing. In a very emotional moment (for all of us), Taleesha looked around at the people waving and sharing encouraging words and said “I’m not invisible!  I thought I was invisible!  Look, people see me!”.

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Taleesha was so appreciative of what we were doing - and we were so grateful to have been a part of cutting her hair, “It’s a beautiful red chair - and I appreciate it. I feel like a Barbie!”  

The Red Chair Project isn’t an effort to save people, but to SEE people..

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Want to get involved? Mark your calendars for October 5th!

We are collecting donations throughout the month of September for a hands-on Red Bag packing event! Learn more by clicking our “Event RSVP” button below.

Help us raise the funds/items needed for the event! Click our “GofundMe” button to donate financially, and our “Wish List” to donate specific items!

Let’s slow down, let’s show up, and let’s be kind

The Red Chair Project: Edward, Justin and Sylvia

Going into the day we knew two things - one, that we wanted to connect with our community and two, we wanted to give some rad haircuts. 

Our number one goal with this project is to help people feel valued and acknowledged. 

Tuesday, 7/16 our day started early with meeting Boyd Huppert and his crew at Steller Hair Co.  We had the chance to show them around the salon, and then took them up to our Steller Connect space which is where the red bags were getting assembled! 

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After having Katie’s Nissan rigged with GoPro’s and microphones, we packed up the red chair, hair tools and red gift bags and began our behind the scenes adventure. 

We sang some carpool karaoke and drove around in search of people asking for support from their community.

Our first stop was back to see our longtime friend, Edward. Edward has been in need of a pair of tennis shoes for quite some time. He had been wearing his heavy duty winter boots throughout the hot summer and the 93 degree weather was not ideal in winter boots. As we pulled up, Edward was beaming. He was so happy to see us and get another haircut as well as receive the new sneakers.

When we asked Edward how long he thought he'd be out that day, he responded with “I’m bringing my son to lunch at McDonalds, so I need to make $15 more”.

We decided to help expedite that process, and circled back around with a McDonalds giftcard. Edward is a red chair recipient that we see frequently so getting to brighten his day means the world to us. 

 
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After reconnecting with Edward we were off to continue our red chair day with Kare 11. We often have people decline haircuts, but that doesn't stop us from saying “hi”, asking them their name, and giving them one of the red bags filled with essentials (toothbrushes, hygiene products, snacks, socks, etc..). 

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The next person who opted in for a haircut was someone who was signing over by the Washington Ave off-ramp in downtown Minneapolis.

His name was Justin.

Justin is originally from California, and has a love for music. While cutting his hair and giving him a Mohawk multiple people stopped to say hello.
Justin enjoys the acknowledgment and was grateful for the cool new hair. He was surprised when we brought the red chair to him and gave him a haircut. Normally he would cut his own hair, so to have a mobile salon come to him was “something special.” 

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After cutting Justin’s hair we drove around some more, which is when we met sweet Silvia off of east Franklin ave.

Silvia had not received a professional haircut in 31 years! She was so happy that we were willing to bring the chair to her. She laughed as she saw us throw on the hazard lights and hopped out of the car to grab the chair and bring it to her.

After looking through multiple photos she settled on a new do that was a great fit for her bright personality. Silvia explained to us how she is signing to find a better life for herself and her son. This project isn't to only about haircuts, it is also an opportunity for us to hear about the incredibly painful living circumstances for so many in our communities, and hopefully be a part of making the big changes that need to happen. 


Sylvia shared about the constant fear she has for her loved ones, and that she wishes her people had a “safe place to sleep”. Her positive outlook was truly inspiring. She reminisced about her dancing days and wearing beads around her ankles and the intricate costumes she got to wear. Silvia is a staple part of the community and connected with many individuals throughout our time cutting her hair. When we grabbed the mirror to show her the new hair she instantly started smiling. It was beautiful to watch how something as simple as a haircut brought her so much joy.

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Regardless of people watching, the Red Chair Project would exist.  It was humbling to have Boyd, and the Kare 11 team, document the unconventional way we have found to connect with our community. This experience has proven to be a bigger gift than we could have ever expected.   

This short video serves as a reminder of why we do the red chair project. It’s impact may be small, but it is a way to connect with all members of our community through something we love doing - hair. 

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Herron, Trigger and Buckley

“This one goes out to those who’s future forsaken, set out in search of some slivers of truth” -Herron

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We are people, just trying our best, just like everyone else.

-Trigger

As Katie was on her way to work, she drove by a man and his dog. The cross street of University and 1st is a destination for many Northeasters. From Surdyk’s to Pizza Nea, Lunds to Ginger Hop. 

After catching a glimpse of Trigger and his dog, Buckley, she took a mental evaluation of her day, and decided to drive around the block and connect with this interesting fellow. 

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When offered a free haircut, Trigger responded with laughter, and followed up with “my girl, Herron, is inside Brueggers grabbing some OJ. She would love a cut”

This fascinating trio was on their way to Tennessee, and stopping by Minnesota only due to the fact that the train they “hopped” brought them here. 

The Red Chair was lugged out of Katie’s Nissan, and was met with cheers and genuine excitement by Herron and Trigger (Buckley continued napping in Herron’s guitar case, along with a few dollars from passerby’s).

Herron and Trigger both came from self proclaimed Gypsey backgrounds. Both of their parents lived this lifestyle well before their time, and that was the normality they experienced as children. They met each other within the past year, and have decided that their unpredictable lifestyle was not supporting their future hopes.

As Katie was cutting Trigger’s hair into a Mad Men inspired fade, 3 police officers pulled up and made it clear that they were their to address this sidewalk salon.

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Katie quickly acknowledged them, and requested if they were their to put a stop to the Red Chair Project, she could AT LEAST finish the haircut. The leading officer looked the situation up and down, and then responded with “as long as the sidewalk is clear for pedestrians, this is alright”. Herron quickly moved their bags and belongings to the side of the road, and the haircuts continued. Not only were the police officers accommodating the unconventional “roadside salon” the spent time chatting with the three of us, with open curiosity of the situation and lifestyle that this sweet couple was experiencing.

“the people hear are the nicest” Herron remarked.

Beyond the hair interaction, Herron shared her poetry, hopes and sadness. She opened up about her past trauma, as well as ADHD and mental health. She is a beautiful example of authentic humanity, and using the way she grew up to help her find her place in a society that doesn’t make her existence comfortable.

This trio brought genuine joy, hope and sadness to the Red Chair. We may never hear from them again, but our life is better because of their existence.

Herron proudly shared one of her poems, and was excited to have the opportunity to share it with others. Watch the video below!

Herron’s Poem

Red Chair Project: Leauxla Rose

“Acknowledgement”. Leauxla Rose responded while getting her first ever “undercut” at the South Washington intersection of 35W near the iconic LOVE POWER mural. This was in response to Katie’s question, “What is something you like to receive beyond money and food?” Something as simple as a nod or smile towards a person can make them feel visible and human. It establishes a human connection that is real. 

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Leauxla Rose has the type of personality that draws people to her, she is bright, warm, and incredibly kind. She believes in community and is grateful for the family she has found within Minneapolis, and with others who are experiencing homelessness. She broke out in laughter as we set up a “mobile salon” and the red chair on the side of one of the busiest intersections in Downtown Minneapolis. When we asked her to give us a snapshot of who she is, Leauxla Rose smiled and went on to share her love for making shampoos out of oils and baking soda, cooking and homemade dishes - including curry, and being creative with art. She finds joy in her community and appreciates the support from them. 


 
 

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While getting her haircut Katie and Leauxla Rose shared a few laughs about hair color as they both came to the conclusion that they’ve dyed their hair every color but green (she sometimes uses lipstick to give herself pink highlights!). In regards to her grown out blonde she told Katie that she bleached her own her with a DIY solution composed of peroxide, baking soda, coconut oil, and lemon juice. Leauxla is an artist that loves freehand drawing and painting. She loves receiving necklaces from her friends in the community and wears them proudly along with the vibrant wildflowers she finds and braids into her hair. She is also an avid dog lover and was beaming when she was recounting stories about her two childhood dogs, Nico and Kodiak Bear. 



Leauxla Rose started experiencing homelessness seven years ago, but receives support in the family she has found in her community. Leauxla acknowledged the loss she has encountered in her life but she made a point to highlight the better days that are coming. She is a strong believer in karma and what you put out is what will find its way back to you.  She kept referring to life circumstances as a “domino effect”, which Katie then asked “is this haircut a part of your domino effect?”. Leauxla Rose responded “yes, and it's a part of yours as well. This mobile salon is good for both of us.”

Sometimes it is easy to take for granted the smaller things in life - including a haircut. Leauxla Rose’s last haircut was three years ago, and the impact of this experience was truly special. The confidence was evident in the brightness of her smile. 

“You made my day.” Was one of Leauxla’ Rose’s closing remarks as we packed up the “mobile salon” and red chair. When we see someone who is asking for help, we might not always have money or items to give, but one thing we are all capable of sharing is the acknowledgment of someone's existence, even if it is simply making eye contact.

Written by Emily Lall and Katie Steller

Red Chair Project: Edward


The Red Chair Project is a new addition to Steller Kindness, but was actually conceptualized back in 2013.  Katie was in the process of opening the doors of Steller Hair Company, which meant all of their salon equipment was being stored in her house.  One day as she walked by the 5 red chairs that were taking over the living room, Katie had an idea. What if she put one of those chairs in the back of her car, and drove around offering free haircuts for people in the community who were holding signs asking for help?  Like most of Katie’s ideas, they go from conceptualization to action in a blink of an eye. Even though Katie didn’t have a platform to share these stories at the time, she realized very quickly that this was an idea that was worth pursuing, and gave a unique opportunity to connect with the community.



   Edwards Silver Highlights -

When it comes to people who are homeless in the Twin Cities, it is not unusual for a smile and a wave. This could not be more true for Mississippi native, Edward. Edward grew up in Mississippi and moved to Illinois, but now resides in Northeast, Minneapolis. If you’ve driven past the University Exit onto 35W you’ve probably encountered his beaming smile. For someone who has experienced so much loss and difficulties he emphasized the importance of looking at the positives in any given situation. Coined by the title, “Edward’s Silver Highlights” Edward made it a point to look at the good aspects of life (as well as laughing about his fresh silver hairs).

With the reboot of the Red Chair Project, our goal is to “Look Beyond the Sign”. People are so much more than a story. If you were to look at Edward’s sign you would not know that the reason he moved to Northeast, Minneapolis is so that he can be closer to his two children. Edward is a family man who religiously talks to his mom everyday. The bond Edward holds with his mom is truly special, he spoke about how she emphasized the importance of an education and made sure that all of her 9 children graduated high school. When reminiscing about his past Edward laughed about his advice about “not getting married” and how his jheri curls never grew back after he got married.

“I felt like Michael Jackson”, Edward chuckled.

It did not take long for passerbyers to take note of the makeshift hair salon and iconic red chair on the side of the road.

A blue Prius drove by and circled back when a lady rolled down her window and said, “What you guys are doing for Edward is great!”

It is amazing the impact of something as simple as a haircut could have on a person. Edward’s already great smile was beaming.

When asked to recount a time that Edward was positively impacted by someone else’s kindness, he began telling a story about the time he was in court and owed $450 for something related to his car. Edward went to pay the $450 and the judge told him that he actually owed $900 and that Edward was $450 short. It was in that moment that a complete stranger took out a checkbook and wrote Edward a check for $450 so that he could complete the full payment that day. Edward was incredibly grateful to the kind stranger. It appeared as though Edward was still in shock that this miracle happened.

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While getting his haircut, Edward expressed his gratitude for people who have stopped to give him something - or even just to chat and hear his story. Edward is rightfully proud of who he is and laughs about his gratefulness when someone gives him McDonald’s or brings him dinner. He chooses to hold his sign to stay out of trouble and avoid the negative aspects of being homeless. It is evident that Edward is a huge part of the Northeast community and has made impactful connections with people who drive by.

Edward’s story is one of many that the Red Chair Project hopes to highlight in the Northeast, Minneapolis community. Through the cutting of hair and bringing a salon chair to people who are homeless, the Red Chair Project thrives on connections and positively impacting people with kindness.

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“Yes, I’ve experienced a lot of loss, but I’ve also had so much good.”

-Edward

Written by Emily Lall and Katie Steller





Steller x Teenventure

 
Photo: Rebecca Slater

Photo: Rebecca Slater

 

Steller Hair Company is more than a salon. This comes as no surprise to those who know us: the love we have for our community goes beyond doing hair behind the chair. We are constantly looking for opportunities to do the most good with the tools and platform we have as a small business!  

Recently we were connected with the Twin Cities organization called TeenVenture. TeenVenture helps young adults explore what their authentic interests are and gives exposure to different career opportunities that might be available. With a mission statement like INSPIRING YOUTH TO IMAGINE THEIR FUTURE we couldn’t help but want to support them!


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“Teenventure provides youth ages 11-14 an opportunity to explore a variety of post secondary education, training and careers.Teenventure takes place when school is not in-session and is intended to expose youth to opportunities that are possible in their future.

Due to financial constraints, so many youth do not have access to explore the world around them during their time away from school.”

-Lori, Teenventure


Steller Hair Company had the honor of welcoming twenty-five St Paul 8th graders for an afternoon of connecting, exploring and learning.  The team at Teenventure initially reached out in hopes of giving their students  a window into what it means to be a hairstylist, but they also asked for us to share more about the Steller Kindness Project and how that can translate into any work environment and career.  

The group from Teenventure was beautifully diverse, open and interested in learning and being challenged.  Our day together began with a tour of the salon, where we talked through the many job opportunities one would have working in this industry (hairstylist, makeup artist, manager, business owner, educator, etc), as well as what the daily flow of Steller looked like.  


After answering a myriad of questions raised by this amazing group, we went up to Steller Connect to do some hands-on fun.  Katie and Kayla taught a few haircutting techniques, and then supported the students in taking turns cutting a mannequin’s hair. 

Latham led the Kindness Project aspect of the day, encouraging the group to write notes of kindness and encouragement to someone.  It was exciting to have  a conversation around the fact that each individual person can make a difference in the world.  We might not see the outcome of a simple act of kindness, but that doesn't mean it didn't make a difference. 

The Kindness Project activity ended up being an unexpected highlight because the students decided that they wanted to write notes of kindness, and then go and give them to strangers at Spyhouse Coffee.  To say people were impacted would be an understatement! 


At the end of the day, who knows if any of these students will work in the hair industry? 

We were satisfied by the fact that we were able to welcome them into a work environment that is supportive, respectful and intentionally kind. 

We hope their experience at Steller Hair showed them that no matter what kind of work they do, now or in the future, they have the capability and opportunity  to pursue their goals with passion, integrity and kindness. 

Photo: Rebecca Slater

Photo: Rebecca Slater

Girls Are Powerful

Photo: Tracy Gradford

Photo: Tracy Gradford


It is empowering and exhausting to live in a time where women/non-binary/underserved are finally being heard.  Let’s be honest, for decades people have been standing up for gender/human equality. 


One of the phrases I say to myself over and over again: “We have so much we need to stand against, what do we want to stand for?”.  Living is devastating, especially when inequality and injustice is so blatantly obvious.


Right now, in this moment, we have an opportunity to be brave. We have the responsibility to navigate change for the next generation of children, women, and people of our underserved community. We have the chance to create a new experience for those who have yet to fully experience the traumas of being viewed as “less than” by our current state of reality.  


These changes start with organizations like Girls are Powerful.  


Our Mission

Our mission is to enhance the self-esteem of all girls by inspiring them to recognize and embrace their natural qualities of being beautiful, unique, smart, confident, determined and powerful.

Our Vision

To help support and create a generation of girls and young women, who are confident, maintain positive relationships, make positive decisions and exhibit responsible behaviors by embracing their power.

Our Values

• Individuality. Valuing a set of characteristics unique to one’s self, and encouraging all girls to build self-acceptance.

• Respect. Foster respect of the abilities, qualities, and achievements of all girls and women.

• Community. Building a safe and inclusive community for girls to exist and thrive, that supports and values each girl and the power they hold.

• Empowerment. Teaching girls how to identify and cultivate themselves into the influential women they will become.


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“Culturally, the pinwheel symbolizes the constant flow of change in a person’s life. Change is a part of life and each time the pinwheel spins, change occurs around us. This is why the pinwheel was chosen as the Girls Are Powerful logo. For us, it not only symbolizes change, but it also represents inspiration to embrace and own your power!”


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Shawntan Howell founded Girls Are Powerful in 2013.  She was inspired to start this organization after a conversation with her daughter around self-worth.  Shawntan has made it her mission to empower girls to be who they are, and give them tools to navigate a world that will try and tell them otherwise.







I met Shawntan at the HandsOn Twin Cities Be The Change Awards.  I had the honor of being a keynote speaker, and Shawntan was one of three incredible Award Recipients. I knew from the moment we met that Girls Are Powerful was a movement that will change lives.

Photo: Chris McDuffie


A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to be a part of the Girls Are Powerful Empowerment Summit.  The goal of this even was to ignite the imagination and power in girls ages 7-14 years old.  The first day was an interactive Career Day, and I was excited to represent choosing to be a Hairstylist.  The thought I kept going back to throughout this experience was “I wish all young people had supportive experiences like this”. 


Thank you Shawntan for choosing to stand for positive change. 

Thank you to Girls Are Powerful for creating an experience that will give young girls the opportunity to feel safe, supported, empowered, and confident in their uniqueness.  

Click HERE to learn more about Girls Are Powerful, and how you can support this incredible organization!

Respect ---> Kindness

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What is the experience that comes before an act of kindness? 


The decisions we make are often a reflection of our values, beliefs, and past experiences. I asked Katy (todays #snapshotofkindness nominee) to tell me a bit about her motivation to be kind. 

 “When you’re able to truly respect the path of others, kindness becomes second nature”. -Katy  

No one experiences life in the exact same way. So much of our perception of others is through the lens of what we know and grew up with.  This awareness allows us to be kind to “unkind” people, because (most likely) they aren't unkind.  Most likely they are communicating their needs in a way that is different than ours.  Hold space for others to be different.  Difference doesn't need to mean “separate”. Difference doesn’t need to equate to someone being right or wrong.



I was introduced to Katy via Janelle:

How Do You Know The Nominee?: Yoga mentor, Life Coach, Inspirational Blogger.

How Has Their Kindness Inspired You?: During our training and afterwards, Katy was very frank about battling her own personal demons and how this struggle inspired her to start a blog for wellness, lifestyle and meditation. It is very inspiring when someone is brave enough to be that open about their life and using their experience to impact and help others. I have been so honored to be her friend, her student, and hope to continue learning from her in the future.

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The goal of Steller Kindness is to bring forward stories of “everyday” impact. It is a reminder that people are experiencing and learning from us, whether we realize it or not. Katy doesn't pretend to be perfect, or paint an illusion that life is easy.  Katy holds a space for people to be people.

What inspires and motivates you to be kind?

As I started seeing myself for who I really am, beautiful flaws and all, I realized that no matter how much I have ever messed up, my heart has always been good. If that was true for me, then wouldn’t it be true of others? We all have misgivings, bad days, have made missteps and ‘bad’ decisions. It’s not my job to judge the actions of others, that’s for the individual to use for their own growth, which will happen at their own pace. My only job is to understand that their heart is the same as mine. Wanting, needing, bleeding. When you’re able to truly respect the path of others, kindness becomes second nature. 

Janelle mentioned that you are an Inspirational Blogger. Tell me more.

When I started out in the ‘wellness’ career I struggled with how much of myself to show. How can I be a lifestyle coach, or meditation and yoga instructor and educator when I also suffer from anxiety and have a past of depression? When I swear and (gulp) sometimes drink too much? I was afraid to let people see the whole of me and ended up creating a lot of internal struggle. I’ve come a long way in my own self-growth, and have a lot of tools to share, but I’m also a normal human, with real struggles. It wasn’t until I gave myself permission to be all of me, the light AND the dark, the grounded AND the untethered, that I felt at peace. Blogging is a way in which I can be my authentic self, where I can shed a little loving light on things like the struggle of being 34 and single in the midwest or learning to embrace the procrastinator within. My hope is that by doing so I can give others the same permission: embrace every part of your personality, past, struggles and soul. It’s only from there that you can truly see what it is that you need.  (Blog can be found on my website: katyqcarlson.com. Just a note: content can be explicit)

What inspired you to become a yoga instructor and your journey to wellness?

Yoga was step one in my own healing. It’s where I understood that I could be okay in a real, true way and I immediately wanted to hold that space for others. This soon became the norm: I’d find something that speaks to and replenishes my soul, then find a way to gift it to those who may need it. When I experience the success and growth of others, my cup is so incredibly filled that I’m driven to continue my own development, which creates this immaculate revolving door of growth, because I then spin what I learn into a way to provide for others who may be experiencing the same struggles. Seane Corn (inspirational yoga instructor) says “If you want to find out where your service is, go to your wounds”. To me there is no greater purpose than to help someone whose shoes I once stood in. To say, ‘I see you, I understand your struggle, and I can help you.’

If you had one piece of advice to give to others about how to spread a little bit of kindness every day, what would that be?

We all know being kind is important. I truly believe that we must hold space for each other and lift each other up in order to have healthy and thriving communities. But, I think what I want to point out is that sometimes, it’s hard. I have days where I wake up and kind of feel like being a miserable bitch. I’m crabby. Sometimes rightfully so and sometimes because it’s Tuesday. And that’s OKAY. However, those are the days when kindness is most important and here’s why: self care. To be kind to others is to RAISE YOUR OWN VIBRATION. Which lowers stress levels, encourages metabolism, as well as the immune and nervous system. Oh, and it makes it easier to be happy. Seriously. So, if you find you’re having a rough day finding that little extra for others, give yourself permission to be a little selfish, be kind to others for YOU.

Want to learn more from Katy? Click here!

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No-Colon Twins

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Meet Aria. This strong 12 year old has battled chronic illness since age 5. For some, the unfair reality of being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease can create a bitterness and resentment. That reaction is 100% valid, but it can also add misery to an already miserable situation. 

Aria is an example of someone who has chosen, despite the unfairness, to move through her life with kindness, humor and love. 

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Aria and I have something in common, we both are diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, and we both have had our Large Intestine removed. 
Aria just celebrated her 5 year “no-colon” anniversary, and I recently celebrated 10 years since I had my colectomy!

I had the honor of meeting Aria, and experienced such a valuable lesson. It didn’t matter that we are 16 years apart in age, or that our lives are vastly different. We connected in empathy and understanding. When you have experienced the isolating feeling of being “different”, it is incredibly comforting to find someone who just “gets it”.

Aria sharing her experience with me was so impactful. It was a reminder that we have a unique opportunity to connect with others through shared pain, and remind each other that we aren’t doing it alone!

"You Matter" Kindness Project

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Alaya and I met at an especially difficult time in my life, and her kindness and beauty impacted me (probably more than she realized!). Alaya and her daughter, Annie, have made it their mission to leave notes of Kindness in creative and unique ways. Learn a little more about Alaya, and the "why" behind her incredible project! 

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"I’m a born and raised Minnesotan! I have a great love and appreciation for family who become friends and friends who become family. I believe in integrity. I believe in making the most out of every day and keep movin’ forward no matter what is put in my path. I believe in keeping life simple and keeping it real. I believe in karma. And I believe in mermaids. If I could shout from a mountain top for all to hear, I’d say: “Keep movin’ forward! You got this! Storms don’t last forever! Keep your chin up! You’re doing great!”. I truly believe life is all about connections and helping those around you along their way. I believe kindness can change our world. I believe in good. I believe in you. I believe in me.  
Kindness By Annie and Her Mom, You Matter, was created when Annie was age 4. After spending 10 non-cumulative months in treatment, I finally learned I was important. During my last stay at the Anna Westin House I had a personal revelation…If I am just now learning I matter, then there must be others out there who are or have struggled with this as well. From here, I began chalking the semi-famous Stillwater stairs (if you google Stillwater Stairs and click on images, you’ll see my chalkings!) When we go chalking we always stop at Tremblay’s Candy Shop for a licorice strings and sour gummy sharks. She sits 5 or 7 steps up from me and I write what comes to her mind. We never plan out word for word what we are going to write. She sits at the top of the stairs and holler “what should I write next?” and she hollers back “be kind” or “love others” or “chase rainbows”. When I chalk solo, I sit quietly and listen for what I should write. Sometimes the phrases flow and make sense, other times they seem a bit choppy. I’ve learned to stop judging my thought process and trust it instead. Listening to your heart and soul is a good way to move forward. 
We mail out Kindness Starter Kits with a donation to our kindness movement. We create our own Kindness Cards and bookmarks. We leave bookmarks in free little book libraries all around town. Being a UPS driver, I carry our bookmarks with us and when I find a free book library, I try to stop and leave a few bookmarks in there. We paint rocks (we painted rocks before it was “cool” to paint rocks!) and write You Matter on the bottom. We hide small toys at little kid eye level throughout Stillwater for little ones to find. Our mission is to show others kindness is easy and anyone can do it." -Alaya 

Read more about Alaya and Annie in this Pioneer Press Article! Watch the a This Video made by District 834, and read this Twin Cities news segment HERE

With Love, The Universe

You are receiving this random act of kindness because you are a wonderful women who cares so much about everyone...
— The Universe via a stranger

Social Media is often times filled with stories of division and pain, and the impact of constantly being flooded with despair can take a hit on your outlook of life and humanity.  It is a breathe of fresh air when you stumble across posts like this:

ViVi Hairstudio had a stranger stop in at her salon, and drop off a letter with the instructions to give to her next client. Check out what was in the envelope! 

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Have you experienced a totally random act of kindness? How did it impact you? Send me a message! 

Audrey

Hand-outs to an extent, aren’t effective anymore. Our primary goal should be going others a “hand-across”, valuing them for who they are and not for what you can do for them.
— Audrey Williams
Snapshot Of Kindness

Snapshot Of Kindness

Have you been inspired by the kindness of someone while scrolling through social media? 

I have never met Audrey in person, but for the past few years she continues to pop up on my social media feed with opportunities to support the NE Minneapolis community. I reached out and asked if she would be willing to share a bit about herself, and the "why's" behind her kindness.

"My name is Audrey D Williams and I am a single mom to two grown daughters, Kharis and Kharita and a son Isaiah who attends Edison High School. I moved to Minesota after the passing of my mom from ovarian cancer. I have been a NE Minneapolis resident since 2003 (I lived in Columbia Heights from 2001-2003). 

I am the CEO/Founder of  TMM Community Resource Services. My passion is working with single moms and providing resources for the homeless community. 
I am employed full-time with Lutheran Social Service as well as being a part-time student at University of Northwestern, pursuing my Bachelor of Science degree.

I love having family gatherings at my home. There are times when I just want to be goofy and make others laugh. I love telling stories.

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My values are rooted in my relationship and faith in God. There are scriptures in the Bible that tells us to care for the widows, orphans and the outcasts. We are to feed the hungry, visit those who are in prison or sick in the hospital and clothe the naked. Those are the principles that I strive to live by daily. 

It doesn’t take a lot to be kind to one another. Kindness can be shown in a myriad of ways. I make it a practice to give kind words to others daily, no matter what I am going through. I would love to see us get to the place where we become a village of people again. What does that mean? Intentionally getting to know our neighbors, forming community group that will rally around those in our community who are struggling just trying to make ends meet; being strategic on how we can effectively help them and build them up at the same time.

Hand-outs to an extent, aren't effective anymore.........the primary goal should be giving others a hand-across, valuing them for who they are and not for what you can do for them.
Lately, I have found so much pleasure in just getting in my car and driving. 

I love 2-3hr road trips where I get to enjoy the beauty of God's nature. It also helps to relieve some of the stress of life." 

Want to get involved? 

Audrey recommends checking out East Side Neighborhood Services!

Let's show up, let's be kind.